Time Enough at Last
What book is on your night stand now?
The floor next to the bed is my true night stand. On it is a heap of books — things like John Masters’s “Bhowani Junction,” Joan Aiken’s “Nightbirds on Nantucket,” Grace Paley’s “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute,” Harold Robbins’s “The Carpetbaggers,” and Lederer and Burdick’s “The Ugly American.” Some books have been there a very long time. I reach down without looking and grab something and read a little of it, and then I put it back in the heap.
Last night my hand landed on John Toland’s “Infamy,” about Pearl Harbor, and I read 50 pages — it’s tremendous in a certain way. All books are incomplete. In my briefcase, which is perhaps my true, true night stand, I’ve been carrying around the galleys of Katie Roiphe’s “In Praise of Messy Lives.” Roiphe’s willing to say risky things, and she has a prosey astringency that makes me happy.
What do you plan to read next?
Why bother to plan? I’ll probably reach down tomorrow morning and haul up some old paperback from the floor.
-Nicholson Baker, By the Book, New York Time.s September 13th, 2012
INT. MARCO'S APARTMENT - WASHINGTON, D.C. - DAY Marco slumps in a chair, drink in hand, surrounded by piles of books. He stares off into space. A light KNOCK at the door stirs him. He crosses to the door and opens it. It's Marco's immediate superior, the Colonel. MARCO Colonel! COLONEL Ben. Can I come in for a minute? MARCO Oh, please do. Of course. Come on in. The Colonel enters and Marco shuts the door. MARCO Uh, may I ask the colonel (A) Is this an official visit? and (B) May I, uh, mix you a drink? COLONEL (A) Yes it is and (B) You certainly may. MARCO Scotch all right? COLONEL Fine. While a nervous Marco checks to make sure his shirt's tucked in before fixing the drink, the Colonel looks over the apartment. COLONEL My God, where do you get all the books? MARCO (fixes the drink) Oh, I, uh... I got a guy picks 'em out for me. At random. (off the drink) Water all right? COLONEL Fine. Marco retreats to the bathroom sink and adds water. MARCO He's in, uh, San Francisco. A little bookstore out there and, uh, he ships 'em to me wherever I happen to be stationed. COLONEL You've read them all? Marco brings the Colonel his drink. MARCO Yeah. They also make great insulation against an enemy attack. But the truth of the matter is that I'm just interested, you know, in, uh, principles of modern banking and history of piracy, paintings of Orozco, modern French theatre, the jurisprudential factors of Mafia administration, diseases of horses and novels of Joyce Cary and ethnic choices of the Arabs -- things like that. Marco realizes he's rambling. The Colonel looks at him, concerned. A long pause.
-The Manchurian Candidate (film), 1962.